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FEATURE: CAN OLD BUILDINGS BE AS GOOD AS NEW?

3rd March 2014

Recent research carried out by The Mackintosh Environmental Research Institute, Towler and Hyslop Ltd Quantity Surveyors and John Gilbert Architects into methods of upgrading Glasgow`s tenements to Passivhaus Standard, contains useful data and methods that can be applied across a good range of Scotland`s solid wall traditional buildings.

It is an unfortunate reality that commercial developers, and many individuals in Scotland cannot afford to build to the same standards of much of Scotland`s Victorian and Georgian cities. By this I mean standards of materials and craftsmanship, space standards and in my own view elegance.

If you like traditional stone architecture, for you, these buildings will be more beautiful than most modern buildings, and perhaps more desirable if only they performed as well from an energy and comfort perspective.

The message from the above report and from our own knowledge and experience is that with deep refurbishment and upgrading it is possible to make a traditional building achieve standards of comfort, well in ahead of those of most standard new build houses. If we do this, it is possible that properly upgraded traditional buildings will be recognised and held at a premium.

The low fruit of all of the available measures giving the best gains, is air permeability or addressing the leakiness of the building. The tenement flats above were to be made more airtight by a factor of 17. This had more effect than adding insulation, but that is the next high priority item. Internal hygroscopic insulation against a lime render onto the stone internal face on the inside face of an important stone elevations, and on less important elevations the superior building physics of external wall insulation can be employed. Ground floors and roofs must also be highly insulated and airtight barriers added. To achieve good air quality and to recover energy, mechanical ventilation with heat recovery is introduced.

With these measures, some careful detailing and a sensible approach to windows, external doors and other obvious issues it is quite possible to refurbish flats or houses so that the occupants end up paying

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